Read The Spoilers Online

Authors: Rex Beach

The Spoilers (10 page)

BOOK: The Spoilers
9.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Judge Stillman was openly delighted, while the court of one like Alec McNamara could but flatter any girl. In his presence, Helen felt herself rebelling at his suit, yet as distance separated them she thought ever more kindly of it. This state of mind contrasted oddly with her feelings towards the other man she had met, for in this country there were but two. When Glenister was with her she saw his love lying nakedly in his eyes and it exercised some spell which drew her to him in spite of herself, but when he had gone, back came the distrust, the terror of the brute she felt was there behind it all. The one appealed to her while present, the other pled strongest while away. Now she was attempting to analyze her feelings and face the future squarely, for she realized that her affairs neared a crisis, and this, too, not a month after meeting the men. She wondered if she would come to love her uncle's friend. She did not know. Of the other she was sure—she never could.

Busied with these reflections, she noticed the familiar figure of Dextry wandering aimlessly. He was not unkempt, and yet his air gave her the impression of prolonged sleeplessness. Spying her, he approached and seated himself in the sand against the boat, while at her greeting he broke into talk as if he was needful only of her friendly presence to stir his confidential chords into active vibration.

“We're in tumble shape, miss,” he said. “Our claim's jumped. Somebody run in and talked the boy out of it while I was gone, and now we can't get 'em off. He's been tryin' this here new law game that you-all brought in this summer. I've been drunk—that's what makes me look so ornery.”

He said the last, not in the spirit of apology, for rarely does your frontiersman consider that his self-indulgences require palliation, but rather after the manner of one purveying news of mild interest, as he would inform you that his surcingle had broken or that he had witnessed a lynching.

“What made them jump your claim?”

“I don't know. I don't know nothin' about it, because, as I remarked previous, I ‘ain't follered the totterin' footsteps of the law none too close. Nor do I intend to. I simply draws out of the game fer a spell, and lets the youngster have his fling; then if he can't make good, I'll take the cards and finish it for him.

“It's like the time I was ranchin' with an Englishman up in Montana. This here party claimed the misfortune of being a younger son, whatever that is, and is grubstaked to a ranch by his people back home. Havin' acquired an intimate knowledge of the West by readin' Bret Harte, and havin' assim'lated the secrets of ranchin' by correspondence school, he is fitted, ample, to teach us natives a thing or two—and he does it. I am workin' his outfit as foreman, and it don't take long to show me that he's a good-hearted feller, in spite of his rid in'-bloomers an' pinochle eye-glass. He ain't never had no actual experience, but he's got a Henry Thompson Seton book that tells him all about everything from field-mice to gorrillys.

“We're troubled a heap with coyotes them days, and finally this party sends home for some Rooshian wolf-hounds. I'm fer pizenin' a sheep carcass, but he says:

“‘No, no, me deah man; that's not sportsman-like; we'll hunt'em . Ay, hunt'em ! Only fawncy the sport we'll have, ridin' to hounds!'

“‘We will not,' says I. ‘I ain't goin' to do no Simon Legree stunts. It ain't man's size. Bein' English, you don't count, but I'm growed up.'

“Nothin' would do him but those
Uncle Tom's Cabin
dogs, however, and he had 'em imported clean from Berkshire or Sibeery or thereabouts, four of'em , great, big, blue ones. They was as handsome and imposin' as a set of solid-gold teeth, but somehow they didn't seem to savvy our play none. One day the cook rolled a rain bar'l down-hill from the kitchen, and when them blooded critters saw it comin' they throwed down their tails and tore out like rabbits. After that I couldn't see no good in 'em with a spy-glass.

“‘They 'ain't got no grit. What makes you think they can fight?' I asked one day.

“‘Fight?' says H'Anglish. ‘My deah man, they're full-blooded. Cost seventy pun each. They're dreadful creatures when they're roused—they'll tear a wolf to pieces like a rag—kill bears-anything. Oh! Rully, perfectly dreadful!'

“Well, it wasn't a week later that he went over to the east line with me to mend a barb wire. I had my pliers and a hatchet and some staples. About a mile from the house we jumped up a little brown bear that scampered off when he seen us, but bein' agin' a bluff where he couldn't get away, he climbed a cotton-wood. H'Anglish was simply fro thin' with excitement.

“‘What a misfortune! Neyther gun nor hounds.'

“‘I'll scratch his back and talk pretty to him,' says I, ‘while you run back and get a Winchester and them ferocious bull-dogs.'

“‘Wolf-hounds,' says he, with dignity, ‘full-blooded, seventy pun each. They'll rend the poor beast limb from limb. I hate to do it, but it 'll be good practice for them.'

“‘They may be good renders,' says I, ‘but don't for-git the gun.'

“Well, I throwed sticks at the critter when he tried to unclimb the tree, till finally the boss got back with his dogs. They set up an awful holler when they see the bear—first one they'd ever smelled, I reckon—and the little feller crawled up in some forks and watched things, cautious, while they leaped about, bayin' most fierce and blood-curdlin'.

“‘How you goin' to get him down?' says I.

“‘I'll shoot him in the lower jaw,' says the Britisher, ‘ so he cawn't bite the dogs. It 'll give 'em cawnfidence.'

“He takes aim at Mr. Bear's chin and misses it three times runnin', he's that excited.

“‘Settle down, H'Anglish,' says I. ‘He ‘ain't got no double chins. How many shells left in your gun?'

“When he looks he finds there's only one more, for he hadn't stopped to fill the magazine, so I cautions him.

“‘You're shootin' too low. Raise her.'

“He raised her all right, and caught Mr. Bruin in the snout. What followed thereafter was most too quick to notice, for the poor bear let out a bawl, dropped off his limb into the midst of them ragin', tur'ble, seventy-pun hounds, an' hugged 'em to death, one after another, like he was doin' a system of health exercises. He took 'em to his boosum as if he'd just got back off a long trip, then, droppin' the last one, he made at that younger son an' put a gold fillin' in his leg. Yes, sir; most chewed it off. H'Anglish let out a Siberian-wolf holler hisself, an' I had to step in with the hatchet and kill the brute though I was most dead from laughin'.

“That's how it is with me an' Glenister,” the old man concluded. “When he gets tired experimental' with this new law game of hisn, I'll step in an' do business on a common-sense basis.”

“You talk as if you wouldn't get fair play,” said Helen.

“We won't,” said he, with conviction. “I look on all lawyers with suspicion, even to old bald-face—your uncle, askin' your pardon an' gettin' it, bein' as I'm a friend an' he ain't no real relation of yours, anyhow. No, sir; they're all crooked.”

Dextry held the Western distrust of the legal profession—comprehensive, unreasoning, deep.

“Is the old man all the kin you've got?” he questioned, when she refused to discuss the matter.

“He is—in a way. I have a brother, or I hope I have, somewhere. He ran away when we were both little tads and I haven't seen him since. I heard about him, indirectly, at Skagway—three years ago—during the big rush to the Klondike, but he has never been home. When father died, I went to live with Uncle Arthur—some day, perhaps, I'll find my brother. He's cruel to hide from me this way, for there are only we two left and I've loved him always.”

She spoke sadly and her mood blended well with the gloom of her companion, so they stared silently out over the heaving green waters.

“It's a good thing me an' the kid had a little piece of money ahead,” Dextry resumed later, reverting to the thought that lay uppermost in his mind, “‘cause we'd be up against it right if we hadn't. The boy couldn't have amused himself none with these court proceedings, because they come high. I call 'em luxuries, like brandied peaches an' silk undershirts.

“I don't trust these Jim Crow banks no more than I do lawyers, neither. No, sirree! I bought a iron safe an' hauled it out to the mine. She weighs eighteen hundred, and we keep our money locked up there. We've got a feller named Johnson watchin' it now. Steal it? Well, hardly. They can't bust her open without a stick of ‘giant' which would rouse everybody in five miles, an' they can't lug her off bodily—she's too heavy. No; it's safer there than any place I know of. There ain't no abscondin' cashiers an' all that. Tomorrer I'm goin' back to live on the claim an' watch this receiver man till the thing's settled.”

When the girl arose to go, he accompanied her up through the deep sand of the lane-like street to the main, muddy thoroughfare of the camp. As yet, the planked and gravelled pavements, which later threaded the town, were unknown, and the incessant traffic had worn the road into a quagmire of chocolate-colored slush, almost axle-deep, with which the store fronts, show-windows, and awnings were plentifully shot and spattered from passing teams. Whenever a wagon approached, pedestrians fled to the shelter of neighboring doorways, watching a chance to dodge out again. When vehicles passed from the comparative solidity of the main street out into the morasses that constituted the rest of the town, they adventured perilously, their horses plunging, snorting, terrified, amid an atmosphere of profanity. Discouraged animals were down constantly, and no foot-passenger, even with rubber boots, ventured off the planks that led from house to house.

To avoid a splashing team, Dextry pulled his companion close in against the entrance to the Northern saloon, standing before her protectingly.

Although it was late in the afternoon the Bronco Kid had just arisen and was now loafing preparatory to the active duties of his profession. He was speaking with the proprietor when Dextry and the girl sought shelter just without the open door, so he caught a fair though fleeting glimpse of her as she flashed a curious look inside. She had never been so close to a gambling-hall before, and would have liked to peer in more carefully had she dared, but her companion moved forward. At the first look the Bronco Kid had broken off in his speech and stared at her as though at an apparition. When she had vanished, he spoke to Reilly:

“Who's that?”

Reilly shrugged his shoulders, then without further question the Kid turned back towards the empty theatre and out of the back door.

He moved nonchalantly till he was outside, then with the speed of a colt ran down the narrow planking between the buildings, turned parallel to the front street, leaped from board to board, splashed through puddles of water till he reached the next alley. Stamping the mud from his shoes and pulling down his sombrero, he sauntered out into the main thoroughfare.

Dextry and his companion had crossed to the other side and were approaching, so the gambler gained a fair view of them. He searched every inch of the girl's face and figure, then, as she made to turn her eyes in his direction, he slouched away. He followed, however, at a distance, till he saw the man leave her, then on up to the big hotel he shadowed her. A half-hour later he was drinking in the Golden Gate bar-room with an acquaintance who ministered to the mechanical details behind the hotel counter.

“Who's the girl I saw come in just now?” he inquired.

“I guess you mean the Judge's niece.”

Both men spoke in the dead, restrained tones that go with their callings.

“What's her name?”

“Chester, I think. Why? Look good to you, Kid?”

Although the other neither spoke nor made sign, the bartender construed his silence as acquiescence and continued, with a conscious glance at his own reflection while he adjusted his diamond scarf-pin: “Well, she can have
me !
I've got it fixed to meet her.”

“Bah !
I guess not,” said the Kid, suddenly, with an inflection that startled the other from his preening. Then, as he went out, the man mused:

“Gee! Bronco's got the worst eye in the camp! Makes me creep when he throws it on me with that muddy look. He acted like he was jealous”

At noon the next day, as he prepared to go to the claim, Dextry's partner burst in upon him. Glenister was dishevelled, and his eyes shone with intense excitement.

“What d' you think they've done now? ”he cried, as greeting.

“I dunno. What is it?”

“They've broken open the safe and taken our money.”

“What!”

The old man in turn was on his feet, the grudge which he had felt against Glenister in the past few days forgotten in this common misfortune.


Yes, by Heaven, they've swiped our money—our tents, tools, teams, books, hose, and all of our personal property—everything! They threw Johnson off and took the whole works. I never heard of such a thing. I went out to the claim and they wouldn't let me go near the workings. They've got every mine on Anvil Creek guarded the same way, and they aren't going to let us come around even when they clean up. They told me so this morning.”

“But, look here,” demanded Dextry, sharply, “the money in that safe belongs to us. That's money we brought in from the States. The court 'ain't got no right to it. What kind of a damn law is that?”

“Oh, as to law, they don't pay any attention to it any more,” said Glenister, bitterly. “I made a mistake in not killing the first man claim. I was a sucker, and now we're up against a stiff game. The Swedes are in the same fix, too. This last order has left them groggy.”

BOOK: The Spoilers
9.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard
Forged in Ash by Trish McCallan
The Beetle Leg by John Hawkes
Anita Blake 15 - The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton
William The Conqueror by Richmal Crompton
Blood Rose by Jacquelynn Gagne
Cherry by Sara Wheeler